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2007-10-03 12:18:00

Dear Coach: How Can I Hire a Real Estate Assistant?

Dear Coach:

I have been a REALTOR for quite some time and I'm ready to take it to the next level but find myself completely unorganized.  Last year I did about 15 transactions. My goal for this year is about 25, with the intent to grow every year from there.  At this stage should I try to get organized on my own or should I be looking for an assistant?  I want to build a strong team for the long term so I can get myself more involved with meeting people and developing personal relationships that produce results.   Because I'm a bit of a control freak, I'm thinking it would be best to find an anchor office person to take charge so I can stay completely out of his/her day to day.  But I am unsure about how to do this. Should my assistant(s) be licensed, not licensed?  How do you determine their salary and/or commissions?  If they are licensed, do I pay for their licensing and how do I keep them loyal to the team after they become experienced agents themselves?


At A Road Block

Dear At A Road Block:

Work on getting better organized and managing your current level of business more efficiently. Once you are better organized, you can then better assess your potential need for an assistant.

Begin identifying what work you want an assistant to help you with. Also, what skills and experience should your assistant possess? Write down your ideas.
Determine how prepared you are to manage an assistant. Not everyone has the skills and experience to manage others. Management skills are necessary to help an assistant provide the services you want.

Should an assistant be licensed or unlicensed?

It really depends on what you want your assistant to do. For example, in Washington state, licensed assistants can do everything a licensed Real Estate agent can do. Unlicensed assistants, on the other hand, cannot:

  • Procure prospects
  • Show properties, answer questions or interpret information regarding property, price or condition
  • Interpret information regarding listings, titles, financing, contracts, closings or other information related to a closing
  • Conduct phone canvassing to schedule appointments in order to seek clients
  • Fill in legal forms or negotiate price/and or terms
  • Regulations governing the use of unlicensed assistants vary from one state to another. Check with your state Real Estate Commission for the rules concerning your real estate practice.
  • Be sure to check with your broker before hiring an assistant so that you fully understand the office policies for using an assistant. Even if an agent hires an assistant, the broker is still fully responsible for all of their actions. Many brokers will not allow licensed assistants to do the same things as an agent, even though some state laws allow it.

So, the decision to hire a licensed or unlicensed assistant goes back to knowing what tasks you want your assistant to help you with. If you are looking for someone to take your place during vacations or to stand it for you when you are working with other clients, then you most likely will want a licensed assistant. On the other hand, if you are looking for primarily administrative support to help manage transactions, then an unlicensed assistant may fit the bill nicely.

What is the best way to compensate my assistant?

The short answer is to compensate them “fairly”. Ask your broker what other agents are compensating their assistants. This will give you a good feel of what your local market pays. Licensed assistants are naturally compensated at a higher rate than unlicensed assistants. Review your finances so that you are confident that you can comfortably afford to pay them. Financial reserves are a must! By starting with a part-time assistant, you will be minimizing your financial risk while determining if you and your assistant are a good match. Many agents hire their first assistants as independent agents so that they do not have to deal with withholding taxes. Here are a few basic compensation options:

  • Hourly rate – You set a fixed hourly rate. Generally, you would start on the lower end ($10 -12/hour) with room for growth as your unlicensed assistant grows in their responsibilities and experience. More experienced unlicensed agents are paid about $15/hour. Hourly wages also gives you more flexibility in terms of adjusting hours worked due to fluctuations in your workload.
  • Salary – While this can work for part time or full time assistants, it requires that you have enough work to keep your assistant consistently busy (and productive) to justify the ongoing salary. This is a significant financial commitment.
  • Bonuses – Since you will be generating more business, with the help of your assistant, you will want to share some of your new business income with them. A bonus can be based on a percentage (i.e. 5%) of new business generated or a fixed amount ($300-$500) per transaction. Again, your broker or an experienced agent can be invaluable in terms of offering local market specifics. In general, bonuses are awarded for helping create or support incremental (additional) business, not to maintain existing business.

Retaining your Assistant

There is obviously no way to prevent an assistant from “going out on their own” (unless they are your husband, wife, or partner and even then it can be a challenge!). However, the best way to retain your assistant is to treat them in a fair, respectful, and trustful manner. This includes providing them clear direction and expectations, giving them timely and constructive feedback, and rewarding them for their efforts. Finally, creating a fun, challenging and exciting environment will keep your assistant around longer.

So, if you consistently have 3-4 transactions per month, have solid financial reserves, possess good management skills, and want to spend more time talking to prospects and members of your Sphere of Influence, and less time doing paper work, then it is time for you to look into hiring an assistant!

Recommended Resources:

Joeann Fossland's Hiring an Assistant E-mail class

Multiply your Success with Real Estate Assistants, by Monica Reynolds
(Stuart Kaufman, MS, MBA, is a Real Estate Business Coach who specializes in helping real estate agents earn a six-figure income working 40 hours per week. He also specializes in helping real estate agents, who have teams, manage them more effectively and efficiently. Stuart resides in Washington State and is a regular contributor to numerous real estate publications nationwide. Got a question for the coach? Contact Stuart at or 206-725-1584.)

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